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Victory: Congress Votes to Make Permanent the Tax Incentive for Conservation Easement Donations

Photo: McCoy Farm by Debbie Warren

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2015

Federal Conservation Legislation Congress Passed Will Benefit Local Land Protection Efforts

CHARLOTTE, NC (Dec. 21, 2015) – Catawba Lands Conservancy is pleased to announce that on Friday, Dec. 18, a bipartisan congressional vote made permanent a federal tax incentive supporting land conservation. Farmers, ranchers and the public will directly benefit from the incentive that encourages landowners to place a conservation easement on their land to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources. CLC was among the 1,100 land trusts to support the incentive through a collaborative, multi-year campaign.

“This is huge victory for local land protection efforts because it allows us to work with certainty as to the tax benefits associated with prospective projects,” said Tom Okel, executive director of Catawba Lands Conservancy.

“The enhanced benefit also significantly increases the universe of donors who are able to take advantage of a conservation benefit, which puts us in a strong position to protect more land in 2016 and in the years to come,” he said. “This comes at a critical time as the Charlotte region continues to develop at a rapid pace and is projected to lose some 30 percent of its remaining green space in the next 15 years.”

Catawba Lands Conservancy is a member of the Land Trust Alliance, the national land conservation organization that led the campaign for permanence.

“The importance of this vote – and this incentive – cannot be overstated,” said Rand Wentworth, the Alliance’s president. “This is the single greatest legislative action in decades to support land conservation. It states, unequivocally, that we as a nation treasure our lands and must conserve their many benefits for all future generations.”

In a strong bipartisan action, the House voted 318-109 and the Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bills that included the tax incentive.

CLC thanks U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and U.S. Reps. Richard Hudson, Patrick McHenry and Robert Pittenger for their support of the bill.

First enacted as a temporary provision in 2006, the incentive is directly responsible for conserving more than 2 million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. The incentive grants certain tax benefits to landowners who sign a conservation easement. Such private, voluntary agreements with local land trusts permanently limit uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Lands placed into conservation easements can continue to be farmed, hunted or used for other specified purposes. The lands also remain on county tax rolls, strengthening local economies.

Once signed into law, the incentive will be applied retroactively to Jan. 1, 2015. An earlier version of the incentive expired Dec. 31, 2014.

The incentive advanced through Congress as part of the America Gives More Act, a package of tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. It passed the House earlier this year, 279-137. A standalone version of the incentive, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, earned 52 Senate sponsors this year, including 26 Democrats, 24 Republicans and 2 Independents. The agreement announced this week additionally encourages donations to food banks and facilitates charitable deductions from IRAs.

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About Catawba Lands Conservancy
Catawba Lands Conservancy (CLC) is dedicated to saving land and connecting lives to nature, and is one of 24 land trusts serving North Carolina. CLC protects more than 15,000 acres of land and serves Catawba, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg and Union counties. CLC is committed to improving the quality of life in the communities it serves by protecting clean water, wildlife habitats, farmland and natural areas for public benefit. CLC is also the lead agency for the Carolina Thread Trail, an initiative focused on linking more than two million citizens with hundreds of miles of trails through 15 counties in North and South Carolina. For more information, visit www.catawbalands.org.

About the Land Trust Alliance
Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents more than 1,100 member land trusts supported by more than 100,000 volunteers and 5 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C. and operates several regional offices. More information about the Alliance is available at www.landtrustalliance.org.